Category Archives: Home Tips

Buying a Home? Location, Location & What Else Matters?

Are you buying a house? Thinking from the seller’s perspective will help you focus on the property as a long-term investment. Here are some of the most important factors to consider.

  • Don’t Just Be a Buyer but a Seller
  • Where is the Home?
  • What About the Schools?
  • What’s the House’s Relationship to its Lot?
  • Is There a Lot of Storage Room?
  • Is the Neighborhood Safe?
  • How “Walkable” is the Community?
  • Does the Home Need a Lot of Work?
  • What Kind of Character does the Neighborhood Have?
  • Finding a Perfect Home

Don’t Just Be a Buyer but a Seller

When people buy a home, ironically, they tend to think too much from the buyer’s perspective. It’s important to also think about the property from the seller’s perspective – because there is a good chance you will eventually be in that position. After all, the average person moves 11.4 times during their lives, so there’s a good chance this home won’t be your final address.

It’s especially important to consider the property as a long-term investment because homes are the largest purchases that most people ever make. Here are a few factors to consider as you go through the buying process.

Where is the Home?

We’ve all heard that real estate truism about location, location, location. The reason it’s such an obsession of agents and brokers is that it has an extraordinary impact on value. Even if a property is otherwise incredibly unattractive, many people will want to buy it down the line if it is in the right place.

What About the Schools?

Consider the fact that many people shopping for new homes will actually start their search with the school district, prioritizing it over any other characteristic. “Even though you might not have children, buying a home in a good school district is always smart,” notes Forbes. “If the schools are desirable, homes tend to hold their value.”

What’s the Home’s Relationship to its Lot?

How close is the house to the road? If you’re looking at condos, you want to think about whether it’s an interior unit or has better privacy on one of the ends. You will have more difficulty getting the price you want when you sell if a neighbor’s house is so close to you that it’s blocking your sunlight as well.

Is there a lot of storage room?

Another major aspect of a property that buyers often fail to notice is storage room, notes Massachusetts broker Marjorie Youngren. “If the current homeowners are smart and their storage is tight, they have either removed or packed away items,” she advises. “Don’t be fooled!”

Is the Neighborhood Safe?

Of course criminal activity is one of the first elements you want to consider in terms of your home. Like lighting and privacy, you may not priortize that aspect as much as others – but it still impacts a house’s value. Look up the crime statistics for the neighborhood. You should be able to find this information online, often through the local government’s website.

How “Walkable” is the Community?

Many people want to know how easy it will be for them to get around the neighborhood on foot. That’s actually become more of a concern in recent years. Again, this factor may or may not be important to you, but it drives up the home price when you sell if it’s easy to get to the school, post office, restaurants, public transit, grocery stores, and other amenities. Especially since the younger generations are less interested in purchasing cars, being within walking distance of shops and bus lines will only become more valuable in the future.

Does the Home Need a Lot of Work?

Be careful about purchasing a home because it’s in the right location while oversimplifying issues with its condition. Many people have ended up in nightmares with “money pit” properties. You really want to be prepared in advance rather than assuming that you’ll be able to get the home up to your standards once you arrive.

“If you want to build an extension or add another story to the property, make sure it is within local zoning or building codes,” notes Forbes. Plus, “[n]ot only does a renovation take money, it takes time, energy and emotional stress.”

What Kind of Character does the Neighborhood Have?

Don’t just trust the crime data. Look around and see if the character of the neighborhood makes it a place you will feel comfortable living long-term. Understanding how you feel toward the area will give you a good sense of how valuable your home might be to potential buyers when you’re on the other end of the transaction.

One of the best ways to really get a deeper understanding of the neighborhood is to visit and walk around at three different times of day. You don’t just want to get a sense of the people (such as how friendly the area is) but traffic density. Talk to neighbors. Is there a garage band practicing next door? Forget resale value for a moment and remember that you don’t want to be irritated from day one by loud noises or other factors.

Finding a Perfect Home

Are you getting ready to buy a new home? As you can see, there are many different factors to consider beyond price and location.

At Realty.com, we deliver information that not only shows you the properties that fit your criteria but the neighborhood & community amenities that fit your lifestyle. Find a new home now!

Stress of Moving Can Strain Relationships

Are you thinking about moving? Be prepared for the emotional toll it will take: research shows moving is more stressful than divorce. In related news from earlier this year, a common side-effect of moving is strain on a relationship, resulting in multiple challenges.

  • Moving More Stressful than Divorce and New Work
  • How Moving Threatens Relationships
  • Lightening the Load of Stress
  • Making the Home Search Simpler

Moving More Stressful than Divorce and New Work

When researchers asked 2000 people in the UK who have moved within the last three years about stressful life events, 61% ranked moving as more stressful than anything else they’d experienced, higher even than divorce.

The stresses of beginning new employment, divorce, and the dissolution of a relationship all essentially tied for second place, with each of them averaging 42% as the most stressful experience of respondents.

The researchers dug deeper to determine the most problematic aspects of the moving process, notes Will Stone of the Daily Express. “Misplaced possessions and realizing furniture does not fit in the new house topped the list of most stressful moving day moments,” he says. “And a quarter of us admit leaving it weeks before we unpack all the boxes.”

Half of people surveyed said that it was a good idea to plan food delivery ahead of time for the night of your move. (It’s sometimes also advised to plan your food order at the new house for the same reason.)

Moving consultant Dave Hax suggests several tactics that can make moving day easier to handle:

  1. Cut holes into your boxes so that they have handles; that way dropping them is prevented.
  2. If doing a self-move, lighten your load by removing the drawers from your dressers and desks so that they can be makeshift boxes.
  3. Snap photos of your power meters at both locations. Also get pictures of all the connections for your computers and TVs.

“Applying … these tips will help to take the stress out of moving day and enable you to have a smooth and efficient move,” says Hax.

How Moving Threatens Relationships

Just during 2015 alone, 40 million people moved. When the economy is going strong in some areas, people in other parts of the country will move to those cities for opportunity. Also, some of those who went through foreclosure during the recession have now reestablished their credit and can buy a home.

Moving is good for the economy in the sense that money is being spent and the best employees are moving to the available jobs. However, take care with relationships when moving. Stresses listed in a recent US survey found that common arguments between couples include the reason for moving, destination of move, finances, and sex life.

People also often get rid of each other’s stuff, with more than 30% saying that they either misplaced or knowingly got rid of something belonging to their partner.

The pollsters spoke with 200 New Yorkers who had moved at least once since 2010.

Among the couples surveyed, more than one-third (35%) said that their relationship was damaged by moving. Top factors making life hard on movers were:

  1. Increase in arguments (51%)
  2. Slowdown in sex life (49%)
  3. Money challenges (49%)

People who have kids encounter additional struggles, especially selecting the best school and getting their children socially acclimated in new friendship circles.

The other stressor, as mentioned briefly above, is things getting either accidentally or inentionally left behind. Top items that wrongly end up in the trash are books, photo albums, themed towels, and memorabilia such as trophies and tchotchkes.

This survey was conducted by moving marketer Our Town America, as explained by its CEO Michael Plummer, Jr.. “These survey results show that moving is highly stressful on relationships,” he says. “In a move, people are overwhelmed with learning new roads, meeting people and perhaps starting a new job.”

Lightening the Load of Stress

How can you keep calm so that stress doesn’t overwhelm you, causing your relationship to suffer? Along with the ideas above for moving day, here are a few more tips from Michelle Manetti of Huffington Post:

  • Make a to-do list well ahead of time.
  • Get plenty of supplies: boxes and tape.
  • Be careful to mark all your boxes so you can easily deliver to the right room.
  • Get rid of some of your belongings so you aren’t moving old junk.
  • Bring an overnight bag so you don’t have to immediately unpack.
  • Contact movers well ahead of time, if you are hiring professionals.
  • Get a friend or two to help you.

“It’s such a shame that the momentousness of buying or renting a new place is overshadowed by such a burdensome process,” notes Manetti. “No one should lose sleep … over what should otherwise be an exciting new life stage.”

Making the Home Search Simpler

Are you getting ready to move to a new location? At Realty.com, we offer the quickest way to search real estate listings online. Select a city.

10 Ideas for Strong Home Staging

Do you want to use staging to better prepare your home for sale? Here are 10 ways to do it right.

  • What Does a Home Stager Do?
  • Hiring a Home Stager
  • 10 Ideas for Better Staging
  • Finding Your New Home

What Does a Home Stager Do?

To stage means to present something for public display. Home staging, then, is the process of preparing a residence for an open house or other viewings by potential buyers. Staging is intended to improve the way a property looks and feels so that more people will submit bids.

Professional home staging, for the most part, is a relatively new phenomenon. The need for home stagers grew out of a desire for specialized expertise to rethink interior design and otherwise improve a home’s appeal.

Home stagers organize belongings, switch out furniture, and can even give you advice for better curb appeal. That way you can captivate buyers from the moment of arrival.

Home staging is essentially a makeover, allowing your home to look as good as it can to an objective eye. It doesn’t take long for someone to decide whether or not your house is right for them, so seize the moment, explains Minnesota Coldwell Banker real estate agent Jan Van Horne.

“[A] potential buyer has made up their mind ten seconds after they step in the front door,” she says. “To achieve the greatest possible outcome, a home should always be presented at its best the first time around.”

Hiring a Home Stager

You want to find a home stager from a referral, possibly through your real estate agent. Get estimates from three or four so you can compare costs alongside reviews.

In some cases, you may be able to convince your real estate agent to cover part or all of the cost of staging. Depending on the sale price of the house, Minnesota Re/Max agent Pat Cirelli says it sometimes pays off to have staging performed.

“For the most part, an agent should be able to determine if a home is in need of this type of service, and if it would be of benefit or not,” she says. “If it’s a reasonable fee, it is usually a worthwhile investment.”

10 Ideas for Better Staging

Wanting some ideas to get you started with this project? Here are 10 general tips on staging a house from professional home stager Matthew Finlason.

Focus on curb appeal. People will often drive by a home multiple times before deciding whether or not they want to take a look inside. Mow the grass; spray down your deck and sidewalk; and add flowers and plants.

Apply elbow grease to the grime. You want the place to look absolutely spotless. Do everything you can possibly imagine that falls under the heading of cleaning, and also look out for weird smells. Homebuyers are basically inspecting your place. If you are cleaning the place yourself, you can always ask a neighbor or friend to give you their first impressions.

Focus on light and color. It’s important to be careful about overwhelming homebuyers with anything bright or offbeat. Typically neutral colors are ideal – unless you are going for a certain impact following a broader design theme.

Make your home inviting. When someone walks through a house, they want to be able to picture themselves living there. Clutter and personal items disrupt that fantasy, notes Finlason. “They need to see your home, not your stuff,” he says. “Excessive personal items like photos, collections, personal awards, electronics and collectibles will make it difficult for buyers to see past your personal style and may deter a sale.”

Buy new furniture and toss unnecessary items. It’s okay to mix several different styles. Try different arrangements and possibilities. Obviously you want to control your costs, but bringing in some funky used chairs and tables could be pivotal.

Stop by the art gallery. Art can make your home look much more attractive and sophisticated. Finlason particularly recommends photography.

Fix what needs fixing. Is there anything that’s overused or damaged? Oil your door hinges, plane doors that are sticking, and replace whatever blinds or fixtures are in disrepair.

Give it a fresh coat. One of the surest ways to revitalize a home is with paint, Finlason advises. “Slap a fresh, neutral color on the space,” he says. “Choose a beige or taupe for living spaces and a neutral green or blue for bathrooms.”

Roll out the red carpet. Recarpet and refinish as needed. In a pinch, you can use an area rug over worn wood floors.

Upgrade the fixtures. A simple way to modernize your home is to get sleeker, more stylish outlets, light fixtures, light switches, and doorknobs.

Finding Your New Home

By understanding how to stage your home, you will better be able to sell it. But where are you going to go? With Realty.com, you get the quickest, most customer-centric way to search home listings online. Get started now.

For Best Value, Think Small With Remodeling

Small replacements that boost curb appeal are the easiest way to get more attention from buyers.

  • Looking Sharp – The Debate over Staging
  • Comparing Cost to Value
  • Bigger Isn’t Better
  • Snap Judgments
  • Kitchens Best Large Project Return
  • Consider Your Region
  • Awash in a Sea of Factors

Looking Sharp – The Debate over Staging

Everyone wants to get really strong bids when they sell their house, and that often involves sound strategy.

The two most obvious pieces of preparation are a deep-clean and staging of your home.

If you haven’t thought much about staging, it’s basically preparing your home for potential buyers – such as removing clutter and rearranging furniture. It’s worth noting that the staging industry came under fire last year when a study found that the practice does not actually add value to a home. However, the same study concluded that sprucing the property up does make it likelier a buyer will become interested in the home (indirectly increasing its value).

Ohio Coldwell Banker agent Virgil Mathias firmly believes that staging is effective and well worth the cost, so much that he always has it done. “After years of doing this, I feel very strongly about it,” he says. “We wouldn’t pay for it if we didn’t think it worked.”

It seems highly unlikely that staging doesn’t increase value, but there is another option to consider that’s a bit more aggressive: remodeling.

Comparing Cost to Value

Large projects typically will not allow a home seller to recoup the full cost. However, there are some repairs and enhancements that make better sense than others. Some will almost completely be recovered in a sale, while others may not be as good from a strict investment perspective but make it likelier that you attract multiple offers (as when you can show off a new kitchen). It also just helps to know what home-improvement projects are the smartest for you to enjoy years in advance of a sale (since the payoff typically doesn’t match the price).

Here are some basic findings:

Bigger Isn’t Better

A major rule of thumb right now is that smaller, less involved projects are the best investment, according to a report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR). “The national average cost for a steel door replacement was $1,230, for example,” explains the NAR’s Stacey Moncrieff. “That’s the least expensive project on the list, and it ranks highest on the payback scale, returning 101.8 percent nationally on average.”

The report looks at 102 different markets, and the door makes back its expense completely in 43 of them. Out of the 36 different types of projects analyzed in the study, four others pay themselves off completely in most markets: minor kitchen remodel, midrange wood window replacement, luxury garage door replacement, and midrange garage door replacement. In other words, five of the six smartest remodeling projects you can buy are replacements – which also tend to be relatively inexpensive.

Specifically, here are the top five in terms of cost vs. value recovered:

  • Replacement of entry door – 102%
  • Replacement of manufactured stone veneer siding – 92%
  • Replacement of midrange garage door – 89%
  • Replacement of fiber cement siding – 84%
  • Replacement of luxury garage door – 83%

Snap Judgments

People look for homes online now, so they really do quickly judge whether or not they think your home is appealing. For that reason, you will get the best returns for replacements that are immediately apparent, such as garage doors.

“Siding replacement also provides great value at resale,” says Moncrieff, “particularly … manufactured stone veneer, which is expected to recoup 92.2 percent of its cost nationally on average.”

Kitchens Best Large Project Return

When we think about a remodel instead of a replacement, the only project in that category that is in the top ten in terms of recouping cost is the minor kitchen remodel. Across the United States, a typical bill for this project is $19,000, 79% of which is recovered in additional value at sale.

Consider Your Region

The best region in the United States for payback on remodeling is the Pacific region (California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii), with six projects that offer greater than a 100% return. East South Central (Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi) is the second best place to make home improvements, with two projects that yield better than 100% in value improvement over cost.

Awash in a Sea of Factors

There are really many factors at play when we think about the value of a certain replacement or remodeling project, including geographical location, common updates in the neighborhood, how well the project is completed, and how critical that particular project might be to an individual buyer.

Selling a home can be mind-boggling, so looking for a new one should be fast and intuitive. At Realty.com, we are disrupting the real estate market with a core focus on higher quality service for buyers and sellers. Find a new home now!

Homebuyer: Watch Your Back

When one man went through the homebuying process, he realized that some of the professionals he thought were his advocates actually had clandestine conflicts of interest.

  • Tip #1 – Understand real estate agency relationships.
  • Tip #2 – Be skeptical.
  • Tip #3 – Know you’re in the driver’s seat.
  • Tip #4 – Educate yourself.
  • Tip #5 – Don’t get paranoid.
  • A New Home

Duncan Hood decided that he wanted to buy a house in Toronto, so he signed on with three real estate parties: an agent, a mortgage broker, and an attorney. He was dismayed to realize as the home search progressed that some of the individuals he was paying to help him were actually also getting paid by a third party.

He offers a few pointers based on his own experiences searching for a new home in fall 2014.

Tip #1 – Understand real estate agency relationships.

What is the difference between a subagent, a disclosed dual agent, a designated agent, a transaction broker, a buyer’s representative, and a seller’s representative? You need to understand not just the roles that are played but who is paying your mortgage broker, agent, and attorney – which in turn tells you where their allegiances lie.

Hood thought that he was the exclusive client of the agent, that it was a straightforward one-on-one relationship. “[B]ut it turns out she gets paid by the seller of the house, splitting a 5% commission with the seller’s agent,” he explains. “My mortgage broker wasn’t paid by me either, but by the financial institution that provided my mortgage.”

Even his attorney recommended a service based more on lining his own pockets than dispensing real expert advice – as discussed below.

(Your first step to cram on agency relationships is the Realtor Magazine brief on agency relationships.)

Tip #2 – Be skeptical.

You don’t want to ever confuse yourself into believing someone is looking out 100% for you when they have other relationships that are also impacting the way they behave. Hood notes that he hired an agent to help him get the price on the house as low as possible, but he later realized that his agent would make more money the higher the sale price.

He also found out that his mortgage broker would collect a commission from the firm providing the home loan, which would also be greater if he got Hood to agree to a higher interest rate. “To me that’s a stunning conflict of interest,” says Hood, “and it wasn’t revealed until I signed the mortgage papers.”

Tip #3 – Know you’re in the driver’s seat.

Now keep in mind, the agent will get zero dollars if you decide against buying. If you feel like the service is problematic, you can and should end your relationship with them.

Since brokerages don’t want that to happen, they will give you a contract called a buyer representation agreement that’s required to work with them. However, you can tell them that you’ll only sign for a certain length of time. Also, agents will generally terminate their contract with you if it’s obvious you aren’t going to do business.

Tip #4 – Educate yourself.

Homeownership has certainly changed in one critical way between a couple generations ago and today. Back then, “folks lived in their homes 15 or 20 years, or more,” explains housing market data portal HomeInsight. “Many paid off their mortgages and stayed in their homes well into their retirement.” Now, on the other hand, the typical person moves almost a dozen times (11.7) throughout their lives. Ownership of a specific house is now short-term, lasting six years on average.

Since these transitions are so much more common, it’s a wise investment to pick up some of the information that is considered the specialty of agents, brokers, and attorneys so that no one can exploit you. For instance, Hood used his understanding of the title insurance market to find a better policy than what his lawyer suggested, the latter of which paid a commission.

Tip #5 –  Don’t get paranoid.

One must be careful, but don’t get paranoid. After all, agents are highly dependent on referrals, so they want you to be happy. Despite his concerns and warnings, Hood saved well over $30,000 thanks to cogent advice from his own realtor.

Plus, “after some prodding, I got a good rate on my five-year fixed mortgage from my broker too (2.79%),” he recounts, “and even my lawyer came through.”

The fact is that even if the professional relationships of realty aren’t always working in your best interests, the average person needs that expert guidance. It can obviously be valuable too, as indicated by the tens of thousands Hood kept in his pocket.

A New Home

Do you want to buy a new home? You deserve transparency. Search online listings through a source with comprehensive information that you can trust: Realty.com. Find a new home now.

Are You “House Poor”? So is Your Neighbor

According to a recent study, most of us can’t afford our homes – but there are a couple of silver linings.

  • Reapplying the “28/36 Rule”
  • House-Poor Nation
  • Two Silver Linings
  • Building Equity with Your Own Home

Reapplying the “28/36 Rule”

The global housing crisis officially ended six years ago, but American families are still struggling to make ends meet. Although there were various powerful forces at play in the leadup to the residential real estate crash, the economic meltdown served as a wake-up call to rethink our finances and be careful not to overextend ourselves.

One way that financial advisors have responded is by reasserting the value of the traditional 28/36 rule, a nutshell guideline that can be used to build a smarter budget.

The rule is fundamentally focused on debt. It states that a family should cap the total amount spent on basic home costs (including mortgage/rent, homeowner’s/renter’s insurance, and property tax) at 28% of gross income. Beyond the amount spent on the home, only an additional 8% of income should be spent on auto loans, hospital bills, credit cards, student loans, and other debt payments – for a grand total of 36%.

Some advisers are questioning the specific idea of applying those percentages to gross earnings (pre-taxes), arguing instead that they should be applied to net income (post-taxes). Applying the rule to take-home pay makes it much more achievable for the average household, explains Joseph R. Birkofer of Houston-based Legacy Asset Management.

The key is that it’s doable. “I want people to have more than a house, I want them to have a life, too,” says Birkofer. “The application of the 28/36 rule can be an eye opener and a ‘go slow’ or ‘reform now’ sign.”

House-Poor Nation

For many Americans, though, their immediate costs for debt are already in excess of the 28/36 rule. We may have gotten more conscientious about our housing costs, but many of us are either stuck in mortgages or living in cities in which the rental rates are skyrocketing (such as San Francisco – where the rent rose 15% between 2014 and 2015).

In fact, every other one of us (52%) has had to take a significant hit in order to pay our housing costs between 2011 and 2014, per a report funded by the MacArthur Foundation. People have adjusted by working additional hours, redirecting retirement funds toward everyday costs, reducing medical expenditures, building up credit card debt, and moving to cheaper communities.

The issue of home prices being out of reach for many people is a critical one, according to National Association of Realtors economist Lawrence Yun – who notes that the average sale price of a house went up 20% between 2012 and 2014 while wages stagnated. The only way the cost of those houses will go down is if more houses are built – and last year’s housing starts measured well below the 1.4 million average units constructed each year since 1959.

When we really get to the crux of the problem is when we look at how many Americans are living in areas where the average mortgage payment represents greater than 30% of the average salary. That’s the case in the areas where 15% of homeowners live. The most absurd examples of an imbalance between mortgage and income are seen in New York and San Francisco, where mortgage is 77% and 70% of earnings, respectively.

Young people are having particular difficulty transitioning to homeownership, according to RealtyTrac vice president Daren Blomquist. “The slow jobs recovery for young adults has made it harder for them to save and to get a mortgage,” he says. And it’s true: more than four in five young adults (84%) are putting off significant milestones, such as switching from renting to owning, due to market forces.

It may look as if people in their 20s and 30s simply want to keep renting, but that is not the case. In fact, 7 in 10 renters hope to one day become homeowners.

The issue is that many of us are still in recovery mode after the housing crash. Since 2008, 7.5 million people saw their homes evaporate in short sales or foreclosures. Even more, 9 million homeowners, still have upside-down mortgages.

Two Silver Linings

Not everything is doom and gloom, though. For one thing, equity has been on the way up. From the nadir of the housing debacle to 2014, homeowners gained $4 trillion of equity. That general trend has continued through 2015.

Furthermore, the building of additional houses mentioned above by Yun as a solution to rising home prices has actually started to materialize.

“Housing starts in the United States rose 6.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,206,000 in September of 2015,” says market resource Trading Economics, “following an upwardly revised 1,132,000 in August and beating market forecasts.”

Building Equity with Your Own Home

As you can see, many homeowners are still underwater. However, the housing market has recovered. For many of us, homeownership is the wisest next step to build a future for our families and establish equity rather than throwing our money away on rent.

Are you looking to buy? We deliver information on properties that fit your criteria along with neighborhood amenities that suit your lifestyle. Find your new home now.

5 Secrets Your Real Estate Agent May Keep From You

  1. “Heavy machinery is on its way.”
  2. “My commission is not set in stone.”
  3. “I make more money when the sale is through my brokerage.”
  4. “I might have to tell the seller everything you say.”
  5. “I am in cahoots with the home inspector.”

You want to keep in mind when you are buying a house that you must exercise the same caution as you do when buying a car. Since you often spend more time with a realtor, you can start to forget that they are a commission-based salesperson. Agents are incentivized to want you to pay as much as possible, as quickly as possible. That means they will sometimes withhold certain information that would be helpful for you to know.

Of course, there is a range of honesty levels among realtors, notes Home Buying Kit for Dummies co-author Eric Tyson. “Real estate agents provide an important service, and the top ones have your best interests at heart,” he says, “but you should be aware of the practices that go on to protect yourself.”

Here are a few secrets that your agent may be keeping from you:

  1. “Heavy machinery is on its way.”

If your agent is hungry to sell a house as quickly as possible, they will be less likely to mention anything negative about the general area. For instance, there might be a huge construction project that’s just starting in a couple weeks, or a registered sex offender may live on your block. The city could even be preparing to replace the grass in the park across the street with artificial turf, as they did when I was living in Brooklyn.

The real estate agent should tell you that information. National Association of Realtors President Moe Veissi mentions that you should ask agents about the local schools, crime figures, post offices, and whatever other neighborhood amenities might concern you. You also want to know how long they have been a realtor and if they are in any professional associations – since those groups typically promote ethical standards for their members.

  1. “My commission is not set in stone.”

How much commission typically goes to brokers and agents? Realty analyst Real Trends estimates the nationwide average is 5.4%. When the house is sold, half of the commission goes to the buyer’s agent and half to the seller’s agent. The specific rate is debatable, though.

The seller is the one who has the most control over commission. They can work with an agent who will accept a lower rate. It will be easier to negotiate a better percentage if your property is worth more.

You just want to make sure that your agent isn’t going to take all the money out of the share going to the buyer’s agent, explains Tyson. “If your broker advertises a fee less than what buyers’ agents normally get,” he says, “buyers’ agents are less likely to show your house.”

  1. “I make more money when the sale is through my brokerage.”

An agent gets a bigger check if the property is one of the brokerage’s listings. One option when you buy is to use a broker who only works with buyers so that there isn’t a conflict of interest. You can find realtors of that type via the National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents (NAEBA).

NAEBA President Benjamin Clark argues that working with agents who don’t sell is especially critical given the way real estate started changing in the mid-90s. “Since several states discarded the common law of agency in the mid-nineties,” he says, “the real estate agent’s duties of obedience, undivided loyalty, confidentiality and reasonable care have been greatly diminished.” He points out that the housing crisis associated with the Great Recession was caused in part by unscrupulous or desperate agents guiding homebuyers and investors into mortgages that were not in their best interests.

  1. “I might have to tell the seller everything you say.”

Many people will accidentally mention something to an agent who is showing them the house that they should not – such as the amount of a mortgage preapproval or the desired speed of a move. Often there are laws in place that require the agent to pass on whatever you say to the sellers.

Remember that different agents are on different teams. Be careful not to talk openly when you are within earshot of the other side.

  1. “I am in cahoots with the home inspector.”

Generally when you are buying, your agent will give you a list of home inspectors that they recommend. Like agents, some of these inspectors will overlook problems so that the sale moves more quickly toward a close. Shady brokers will keep working with them for the favor.

Now, you won’t always run into this problem, of course, notes Tyson. “If you picked a good agent, you should get high-quality referrals,” he says.

Nonetheless, it’s a good idea to speak with several inspectors and get a sense of their credentials. You can ask for a sample inspection report. Also see if they are in the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) or a similar professional group.

Checking the Neighborhood While you Search

Watching out for realtor secrets in the above categories can protect you when you buy a house.

You can actually educate yourself on the community (the #1 secret) ahead of time through Realty.com. All our property information is integrated with school ratings and local amenities so that your house search is optimized for your lifestyle. Find a new home now!

Why Was Your Home Offer Rejected? 4 Possibilities

  • Much at stake and much to do.
  • The power of rejection.
  • #1 – It’s “Too much house.”
  • #2 – You have strong competition.
  • #3 – You lack preapproval.
  • #4 – You want to extend escrow.
  • Conclusion

Much at stake and much to do.

There is a lot on the line when you buy a house. Most of the stress is simply a matter of scale. No one needs to check your credit when you purchase a candy bar, because you don’t have to take out a massive loan to purchase it. Beyond the sheer size of a home purchase, there are also emotions involved – strong emotions related to one’s sense of identity and the notion of achieving the American Dream.

Plus, there isn’t just much at stake but several major steps to complete – strengthening your credit, finding the right mortgage, selecting the best agent, and going out to look at houses.

At the end of the day, you just want everything to move smoothly. Sometimes, though, it doesn’t. Sometimes you work carefully through the whole process, and your home offer gets turned down.

The power of rejection.

Probably the last thing you want to hear if you just had a home offer rejected is how powerfully rejection impacts your body, but understanding what’s going on can help you take care of yourself.  Seriously, rejection hurts.

In fact, functional neuroimaging (the accepted method of tracking brain activity) has revealed that the part of the brain that’s at work following rejection is the same part of the brain that lights up in response to physical pain.

The processing of physical pain and social rejection is so similar that a common headache medication – acetaminophen, the ingredient used in Tylenol – is effective at decreasing the impact of rejection. That point is made by psychologist Guy Winch, PhD, author of the book Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure, and Other Everyday Hurts.

“In a study testing the hypothesis that rejection mimics physical pain, researchers gave some participants acetaminophen … before asking them to recall a painful rejection experience,” he says. “The people who received [acetaminophen] reported significantly less emotional pain than subjects who took a sugar pill.”

Solving the emotional headache is one thing. Why were you rejected, though? Here are four common reasons.

#1 – It’s “Too much house.”

Sometimes houses are simply too expensive. A realtor might want you to look at properties that are beautiful but just don’t make sense for your budget. Whatever makes sense to you in terms of a price range, stick to it firmly, advises finance writer Valencia Higuera.

“[A]fter looking at [pricier] homes, properties within your price range may lose their appeal,” she says. “In order to make a more expensive home affordable, you may submit a low-ball offer – which often doesn’t sit well with sellers.”

An offer that is excessively low (less than 75% of the asking price) can be irritating to the seller. Keep in mind that they have their own money issues. Out of the sale, there must be money for the agent, the current mortgage, and a down payment for their next property.

Be reasonable about what you can afford to protect everyone’s time, including your own.

#2 – You have strong competition.

You aren’t the only one looking for a house, remember. The seller may have a better offer currently in their hands.

You typically want to be close to the asking price, and you really don’t want to bid too far below what you are willing to pay if you are in love with the property – especially if there are likely other potential buyers.

“Never assume that other buyers will bid low,” says Higuera, “[A]nd even if they have, it only takes one person offering slightly more than your bid to knock your contract off the table.”

#3 – You lack preapproval.

Many sellers only want to look at offers from people who have been preapproved for home loans. Preapproval is a relatively simple process, and when it’s over, you actually benefit as well – because you know exactly how much money is going to be available to you through a mortgage.

#4 – You want to extend escrow.

People do not want the contract sitting in escrow for very long waiting for your down payment. Specifically, sellers generally don’t want to work with anyone who can’t close within a month, Higuera notes. “They’re undoubtedly ready to move forward with their life,” she says, “or they may need to sell quickly for other reasons, such as a divorce, an illness, job loss, or relocation.”

Conclusion

As you can see, there are various reasons why your home offer may have been rejected, and rejection really does hurt. However, there are plenty of other options out there.

If you want to look at different price ranges or just get back out and find new properties quickly, that’s the whole point of Realty.com. Select a city now.

Five Reasons Homeownership is the Right Choice for Millennials

  • US Census: Only 36% of Millennials Own
  • #1 – You are Putting Your Money Toward Equity
  • #2 – You Receive Benefits Every April
  • #3 – You will Simply Feel More at Home
  • #4 – You Can Benefit from Good Interest Rates
  • #5 – It’s a Potential Nest Egg
  • Millennials are Busy

US Census: Only 36% of Millennials Own

The same basic wise financial choices remain essentially the same for millennials as for their parents’ generation: put money away as early in life as you can, invest in a 401(k) at work, and pay down any credit cards. Homeownership is often lost in the shuffle, distrusted because of the housing market crash, but it is still a strong way to diversify your investments.

Buying a home is a good way folks as young as their 20s can prepare themselves for the decades ahead, says Riccardo Ravasini of NYC’s Rava Realty. Ravasini, who is in charge of the company’s properties in Florida and New York, notes that buying is the best way to go “because it is inflation-protected and a physical asset that doesn’t disappear like stocks can.”

Many millennials have not yet transitioned from renting to homeownership because their careers are sputtering, they have high amounts of student loans, and they are still single. US Census data shows that millennials became less likely to own homes last year, when the renting population among them grew to 64%.

That said, millennials are still buying houses; in fact, they make up a larger chunk of first-time buyers than any other age group. Experts in the real estate industry believe that the millennial market is gradually starting to take off, and projections generally show that the age group is becoming more open to homeownership.

Why buy? These are some of the reasons that many finance professionals advise young women and men to go out and buy homes sooner rather than later.

#1 – You are Putting Your Money Toward Equity

When you give a landlord a rent check, it is going toward his/her mortgage. In other words, you are helping another person build equity. Why do that when you could build your own?

Mortgage payments go toward actual ownership of the property, Now of course, that’s provided you get a strong home loan, so that your house is building real equity and doesn’t become “upside-down.”

“As the remaining balance on a mortgage is reduced, home equity increases, padding your own retirement account – and not your landlord’s,” explains Amanda Falcone of US News & World Report. “Better to spend your money on your own home than on unnecessary, short-term expenses that won’t provide value later.”

#2 – You Receive Benefits Every April

There are IRS write-offs related to homeownership. Payments toward interest are tax-deductible. Plus, as long as you are a typical homeowner in two ways – your property value hasn’t skyrocketed by more than $250,000, and you have lived at the home for at least two years (as your primary address) – you are also exempt from capital gains tax if you sell. These tax write-offs may sound relatively small, but Kent State University finance professor Tony Via says that the overall payoff is better than both tax-deferred retirement packages or IRAs.

#3 – You Will Simply Feel More at Home

People often think of homeownership in terms of feeling more stable and grounded. Buying is thought to be the way that you settle down. That actually is a big advantage of buying – a better establishment in the world around you, explains Mike Hardwick of Tennessee’s Churchill Mortgage.

“Although it is not a primary benefit for millennial homebuyers, there is also a sense of pride that homeownership invokes,” he says. There is actually a way in which homeownership serves as a social good, adds Harwick. “Through the investment of a home purchase, millennials can play a key role in restoring faith in the American dream.”

#4 – You Can Benefit from Good Interest Rates

If you are thinking about generally building your credit, buying a house is a much better route than signing up for credit cards – especially now, since mortgage rates are ideal.

#5 – It’s a Potential Nest Egg

For millennials, they should be able to pay off the house by the time they retire, notes Via. Once you have that equity in the property, you will always have the potential to tap into it during your retirement.

It’s critical for this age bracket to save smartly for retirement since Social Security checks are expected to dwindle in the future.

Millennials are Busy

Here’s the thing: there are plenty of reason to buy a house, but we all know that it’s a big project, and it requires time. What millennials need is fast solutions.

At Realty.com, we offer the quickest way to search real estate listings online. Find a new home now!

5 Good Steps to Take Before Moving Into Your New House

  • Moving = Stress
  • Step #1 – Changing the Locks
  • Step #2 – Housecleaning
  • Step #3 – Painting/Refinishing/Wiring
  • Step #4 – Organizing
  • Step #5 – HVAC Servicing
  • Still Looking for Your Dream Home?

Moving = Stress

Moving is one of those things that always feels a little overwhelming. In fact, it is considered one of the most stressful experiences that people typically encounter. Just look at the top five most stressful situations according to HealthStatus.com:

  • Divorce
  • Death in the family
  • Serious illness
  • Losing a job
  • Moving

“Any disruption of your routine causes stress,” explains the health site. “Moving disrupts the entire family.… Plus you have to deal with the packing.”

Personally, I have moved seven times during my adult life, and I can say that it continues to be challenging no matter how many times you do it. I think that’s because of two basic dual elements: 1.) You are uprooting your life and logically feel ungrounded as you make the transition. 2.) The sheer number of tasks to complete are difficult to fit into an already busy schedule.

What to feel more stable and relaxed? So you can breathe a little easier, we put together this list of to-do items to check off before you move everything into the property.

Step #1 – Changing the Locks

It’s easy to forget a step that’s incredibly important: switching the locks so that you are truly creating a private environment. It may sound ridiculous to think that the person selling you the house or any other random person who might have a key would have the audacity to use it. However, that’s exactly what happened to a friend of Lifehacker contributor Melanie Pinola: one day the previous occupant just unlocked the door and waltzed in uninvited. Moving is expensive of course, so you can look into doing this as a DIY project if cash is tight.

Step #2 – Housecleaning

Certainly if you can help it, you don’t want to move all your belongings into a filthy house – and sometimes the previous owner or realtor will have already cleaned the place from top to bottom. However, Bud Dietrich advises in Forbes that you clean the whole place regardless. “You can hire a service to do this, something I heartily recommend if time is tight, or you can do it yourself,” he notes. “If you do it yourself, set up an area with all of the supplies and tools you’ll need to get the job done.”

Step #3 – Painting/Refinishing/Wiring

When your house does not yet have all of your furniture and electronics in it yet, it’s an ideal time to fix up how the house looks and feels.

Go after the walls and ceiling, Pinola suggests – with paint and possibly wallpaper. You also may want to put a fresh coat of paint in your closets or on your cabinets. The best way to approach this project is starting at the ceiling and working your way toward the floor.

While you’re at it with these big routine maintenance projects, you also may want to get your carpets professionally cleaned and freshen up your wood floors. People often make the second of those tasks excessively complicated, explains Steve Dubuque of Hunt Hardwood Floors. “If the scratches don’t go all the way through to the wood, you can scuff-sand your floors with a buffer and apply a fresh coat or two of finish,” he says. “The process is easier and less expensive than sanding down to bare wood and takes less time.”

Finally, go ahead and put in the wiring that you are going to need for your home entertainment and computer systems.

Step #4 – Organizing

Moving is partially an opportunity to reduce clutter. Start with the closets since they are such a great place to stow away random items. Even piles of shoes can start to become chaotic.

If the closet just has a single shelf, you might want to add another one. You also might want to look into a hanging shoe rack.

Once you are through with the closet, turn to the rest of the house. Where will everything go? What are the best spots for your laundry detergent and umbrella, for instance? You can see how this will make moving in much easier.

Step #5 – HVAC Servicing

Finally, you want to get your heating and air-conditioning system serviced right away, as soon as the paperwork goes through on the house. You also want to make sure that you have a service plan in place on those systems, says Dietrich.

“We’ve always had good luck asking our new neighbors which company they have found to be reputable and attentive for this work,” he notes. “It’s also a great way to meet the neighbors.”

Still looking for Your Dream Home?

Are you still in search of your dream home? We can help. At Realty.com, we integrate basic property information with the amenities that fit your lifestyle. Find a new home now!